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UNECE helps to improve dam safety in Central Asia

As recently highlighted in the news from the United States on the Oroville dam and its damaged spillway, the safety of dams is a major issue worldwide. For quite some time UNECE has been engaged in Central Asia to develop capacity and policy with regard to dam safety. A project funded by the Russian Federation: “Capacity building for cooperation on dam safety in Central Asia” is now in its final stages.

Representatives from key authorities and stakeholders from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, along with representatives of international organizations and experts from the Russian Federation, gathered in Almaty on 1 and 2 March 2017 to discuss the achievements of the project, including:

  1. Improvement of legislation and institutions in cooperation with authorities in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
  2. Strengthened capacities of officials and experts with responsibilities involving dam safety, including support for the establishment of an international training centre in Taraz, Kazakhstan.
  3. Cooperation established between Central Asian countries that share transboundary rivers, and thus possible dam accident risks.
  4. Safer operations of individual dams, such as the Ortotokoi dam in Kyrgyzstan where a safety monitoring system has been installed with the support of the project. Several other dams have been analysed with regard to their safety.

Participants in the meeting stressed the importance of continued cooperation, including with the support of UNECE. It was agreed that the Executive Bureau of the International Fund for the Saving of the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan could provide a platform for continued cooperation between the Central Asian countries. Remaining challenges include inadequate legislation and the establishment of responsible institutions in some of the countries as well as improved safety inspections and monitoring not only of large dams but also smaller ones.

A training seminar in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation, and a project evaluation will conclude the project during spring 2017, but there is hope for continued funding with the objective to minimize the risks of future accidents.

The UNECE dam safety project is a component of the UNECE Water Convention and SPECA programmes of work. For further information please contact:

Mr. Bo Libert
UNECE Regional Adviser on Environment
Phone: +41 (0)22 917 2396
E-mail: bo.libert@unece.org